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At 535 Carlton, 11 affordable units get their rents halved. That saves the developer far more.

So, the "100% affordable"--but skewed to middle-income households--535 Carlton tower has gotten a little more affordable. But it's no act of generosity, but rather furthers a huge tax break for Greenland Forest City Partners, as previously reported.

Recently posted public documents reveal that the moderate-income "band," which originally included only 15 of the building's 297 apartments, now has eleven more units, and the most expensive "band has eleven fewer units. This approximates a 50% rent cut.

535 Carlton has eight more two-bedroom units renting for $1,591 a month (total now 12) and three more three-bedroom units renting for $1,832 (total: 4). Combined with 90 low-income units, this means the building now has 116 units renting at 100% of Area Median Income (AMI) and below. (In 2016, 100% of AMI for a four-person household was $90,600; it rose to $95,400 in 2017.)

Here's the original distribution. The number of studios (3) and one-bedroom apartments (7) remains the same. (The super's apartment was not in the lottery.)

Swapping out more expensive units

This moderate-income boost was accomplished by swapping seven two-bedroom units (previously $3,223/month) and four three-bedroom units (previously $3,716/month) from middle-income Band 5, which retains 37 two-bedrooms and three three-bedrooms. Band 5 originally had 148 units and now has 137.

The difficulty in filling such middle-income units, with some 95 unclaimed after the housing lottery, sparked New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante's scornful 11/19/17 column, At $3,700 a Month, ‘Affordable’ Apartments Go Begging.

Behind the switch

The document memorializing the swap was prepared 11/22/17, three days after Bellafante's column and surfaced on the city's ACRIS database in January.
Graphic by Ben Keel for City Limits
The swap was driven by pragmatism and profit-seeking. As I reported for City Limits 10/23/17, Greenland Forest City Partners managed to link 535 Carlton to the condo building 550 Vanderbilt down the block in a single "zoning lot," thus positioning the latter for a vastly increased 421-a tax benefits.

However, to qualify for the tax break, 535 Carlton must supply 116 units, in various sizes, renting below 120 percent of AMI, to meet the required 20 percent affordability in the 576-unit pairing.

So the delivery of eleven more moderate-income units translates into tax savings of an estimated additional $50 million over the life of the project.

The 11 units that were swapped were previously unoccupied, a spokesman confirmed. There were surely more than enough takers on the waitlist.

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